August 10, 2020, 09:54:38 AM

Author Topic: Words from our planet in fantasy novels  (Read 2170 times)

Offline eclipse

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Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« on: April 06, 2017, 10:46:45 PM »
I'm reading The Thousand names at the minute, I'm pretty sure it's not  set on earth, yet it mentions China. Sentence from book below.

"Complete with chairs, napkins and cutlery. Even plates-Marcus hadn't seen real china since he arrived in  Khandar"

Do you think the author should have made a new name Instead of China ? For me it pulled me out the story when the word China was mentioned.

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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2017, 10:51:12 PM »
I'm not sure china as in 'material for plates' comes from the country China.
Anybody knows?
Let me google it.
Oh. Wikipedia says "Porcelain is also referred to as china or fine china in some English-speaking countries, as it was first seen in imports from China."
Yeah, then maybe he should have used porcelain...
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Offline Quill

Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2017, 10:55:42 PM »
I think so. If you're trying to build a world separate from Earth, you have to weed out the worst offenders. You cannot eradicate everything, since so many of our words originate from specific names and places in our world and culture (I discovered this as I made this attempt myself and had to admit it was probably impossible), but just getting rid of those that would be noticeable by an average reader (e.g. a word like china) should be done. Unless you adopt the opposite stance and do not care at all, though I imagine few who are ambitious about world-building would think in this way.

and yes, @ScarletBea, China was where the Europeans bought porcelain and brought back to Europe (at first, primarily done by the Portuguese trading out of Macau, or instance). They did so in such great amounts, China the country became synonymous with porcelain the item.
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Offline eclipse

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Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2017, 11:27:03 PM »
Read further on now it mentions May as in "13th of May, 1208 YHG."
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2017, 01:48:04 AM »
So far as I have seen, Tolkien had only one modest outside, biblical reference - Boromir's response to the arrival of the Balrog "What is this new devilry?"
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Offline xiagan

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Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2017, 03:54:47 AM »
Read further on now it mentions May as in "13th of May, 1208 YHG."
It all depends on how close you want your world to our world.

Sure, he could've used Spring Moon or something completely made up but there's always the chance to pull the readers even more out or to confuse they.

The Shadow Campaign is very close to our world, Russia, the UK, colonialism, the storming of the Bastille... It's all there, even when the geography is a new one.

The book relies heavy on our world as a reference point - you could even say it is an alternate history far enough removed from ours to be estranged enough to not notice it right out.
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Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2017, 07:05:17 AM »
You're never going to avoid all these words entirely. There are so many words that have meanings tied to our world. If I saw China as a proper noun, it would bother me, but reading it in that instance wouldn't pull me out of the story at all.

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Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2017, 08:00:27 AM »
Ryan's got it for me. You gonna find a new name for sandwiches as there was no Earl of Sandwich? Or rename magic and mages because your world had no ancient Persian religion? Rename the element Mercury and never use all derivatives (ditto jovial, martial, etc.etc.)?

Sometimes I tell myself its fair game because if you were to translate a work from one language to another, you'd translate one word to another with a totally different and unsuitable etymology because the reader would understand it best.

But mostly I just don't care. Sooner or later, no matter how alien the world, it has to be described in earth terms and there's just too many earth terms that are related to earth concepts to avoid all of them.

Offline DaveEllis

Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2017, 09:20:28 AM »
Real world terms never usually bother me unless it's really in your face, like comparing something to a real world analogy. Every word we use has some historical entymology, some are more famous derivations than others, so it would be impossible to remove.  The China one wouldn't have bothered me, because I've separated the word for pottery from the place in my head.  It's like Hoover to me means vacuum cleaner...weird comparison but it's early.

Anyway, worst case scenario would be Sanderson being scuppered if he had had to rename all the different metals because Latin doesn't exist on the Mistborn world.  Sometimes you need the real world words to explain your own world to the reader.  Think of it like the universal translator in Star Trek  ;)


Offline eclipse

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Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2017, 10:00:06 AM »
I would need the British universal translator! Not the American English Translator ;-) I can't be doing with those missing letter U in  certain words.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2017, 10:16:28 AM by Eclipse »
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Offline DrNefario

Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2017, 10:20:16 AM »
I figure that the book is translated, somehow, from some fantastical language, and will use earth-equivalent terms for similar things.

It's probably best to avoid words and phrases that are very obviously grounded in our world, and words and phrases that are very obviously anachronistic, but it's not actually a deal-breaker. It just gives you a bit of a double-take.

There was a bit in The Lascar's Dagger by Glenda Larke which I found a bit more complex: a character who is ignorant of the terminology confuses the name of a cargo ship with the name of a wind instrument. I assume this would be "flute" (I'm a little hazy on sailing ships, I'm not exactly an expert myself), and that implies that the same wordplay exists in this fantasy world. That they are actually speaking English, or whatever other language has the same confusion. That's a lot harder to explain away as a translation. Then again, the book has Lascar right there in the title.

Offline eclipse

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Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2019, 04:02:26 PM »
Reading Godblind by Anna Stephens

It mentions Yule , just say winter festival.
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2019, 04:13:14 PM »
Hmmm in the end there's a balance between inventing words and having to explain what they are, and using 'normal' words to keep the rhythm flowing...

Yule is actually quite 'pagan' and 'traditional', so I think it fits in a fantasy setting. Wouldn't 'winter' also refer to Earth? Where do we stop?
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Offline eclipse

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Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2019, 04:21:52 PM »
Yes balance is fine . Yule throw me out through personally along with American slang in a medieval setting that’s just me.

I quite like the translator explanation.
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

* Generally those who don't have to do it.Politicians and writers spring to mind

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Re: Words from our planet in fantasy novels
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2019, 05:50:28 PM »
I felt that throwing out in Kings of the Wyld when I read the line What happens in some_place, stays in some_place.

I agree that there should be a balance but the writer should avoid real world names and references as much as possible in an epic world.
Kallor shrugged. 'I've walked this land when the T'lan Imass were but children. I've commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I've spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?'

'Yes' said Caladan Brood. 'You never learn'